Main Image: Paul Colman Trio on the Easterfest main stage 2009 (Easterfest). Listen: Justin Rouillon speaks with Grant Norsworthy and Phil Gaudion of the Paul Colman Trio about the re-release of their independent albums.
In the early 2000’s the Paul Colman Trio were the biggest thing in Aussie Christian music.
The Melbourne three piece could seemingly do no wrong, with two successful independent albums under their belt in ‘Serious Fun’ (1999) and ‘Turn’ (2000).
Supported by relentless touring across the country and wall to wall airplay on Christian radio, the momentum had built, with the obvious question starting to be tossed around – when to launch an assault on the American market.
Two further independent releases followed in 2001, with ‘Live – Electric’ and ‘Live – Acoustic’ showcasing the band’s formidable concert experience, and the prowess of touring guitarist Adam Lester.
Looking back now, its hard to believe that an indie band from Melbourne could put out four albums in the space of three years, but as drummer Phil Gaudion points out, Paul was an exceptional writer.
“At that time Paul was an incredibly prolific songwriter, he was pumping out a lot of material. But the creativity was flowing for all of us – Grant was writing some songs as well. It was no desert of creativity, but there was also a sense that something bigger than us was going on, there was a definite sense of momentum.”
Grant said that the addition of other creatives gave the band a boost during the recording of the album ‘Turn’.
“We invited Andy Sorensen to produce Turn, so that brought another very creative person into the mix, as well as Adam Lester on electric guitar – we had a sense we were making something really cool.”
The band are now scattered around the world, with Paul based out of Nashville, bassist Grant Norsworthy residing in New Zealand and Gaudion having returned home to Melbourne.
And it was those original, independent recordings that have led to a reformation of sorts, with the trio reuniting to record a 20th anniversary rendition of their smash hit ‘Turn’, as well as the re-release of their independent albums.
“Those four independent records that were put out as CD’s, they haven’t been available in the digital space. We had our fans letting us know that they wanted these albums available on Spotify or Apple Music. So it really was an act of love from us three guys to put the music back out there.”
Off the back of their unrelenting touring and back catalogue, the American tree was starting to shake; a deal was inked with Essential Records, the trio was invited to open for Christian super group Third Day in 2002, and Monroe Jones (Building 429, Cliff Richard) recorded PC3’s first major label album ‘New Map of the World’ in Nashville.
“Paul had been thinking big picture all along” said Grant, “he was such a great leader in that way. I had this philosophical idea that if you were making music that pointed people towards God and wanted to find a bigger audience, you know that if you’re going to make a career of it then you’re going to have to leave Australia. Paul was a lot more definite about the steps that would needed to be taken to make that happen.”
“It was necessary for us to try and tap into America” Phil reflects, “as much as we adored Australia, we’d tour for six weeks and we’d reach around 15,000 people. We’d go and play in America supporting Third Day and we’d play to 15,000 people in one night! We weren’t trying to make music for success, we made music because we loved the way it communicates God’s love, we loved being a part of it and that’s why we wanted more people to hear it.”
Despite critical acclaim, Dove Awards, Grammy nominations and a growing US fan base, the Paul Colman trio called it quits in 2004. Behind the scenes, the tumultuous five year period had taken a toll on the band members, their families and their personal relationships.
“Some of those relationships were pretty much in tatters by 2004, especially myself and Paul” says Grant.
“We’re not proud of that, but when we reformed for Easterfest in 2009 that was a big part of the healing process. Paul is one of my best mates again and our relationship is not in tatters anymore.”
That reformation led to the band putting out ‘Return’ in 2011 which Grant said had an element of unfinished business about it.
“Most of the songs on Return are songs that we had worked on together prior to 2004. Those songs to me on the Return record are such testaments to the healing grace of God, and also of healing relationships, even between two pig-headed fellas like me and Paul Colman!”
These days Paul Colman resides in Nashville where he’s still active as an artist and works as a musician and producer.
Grant Norsworthy left the US in 2018 and moved to New Zealand to be closer to his in-laws. He now runs a program called More Than Music Mentor, which provides training to churches and worship musicians.
Phil Gaudion lives in Melbourne where he works as a session drummer and producer. Phil is currently working alongside Scott Darlow, an Indigenous singer, guitarist and didge player who’s scored success across mainstream radio and the Australian charts.